There has been much discussion here and elsewhere that the Republicans will run on terror in the midterms because that is all they have left. But the GOP has another perennial issue that they intend to run on as well--lower taxes. Just last night a smiling Tom Reynolds (R-NY26) told Chris Matthews this was so. But just as the Dems are starting to attack Bush on national security, so too are they finally in a position to turn their attack boats head on into this other GOP issue and potentially neutralize it.
One way is to link tax cuts with the debt. Imagine this ad. A darkened House chamber, slightly ominous music, the usual deep-voiced man intoning, as the numbers flash on the screen:
When George W. Bush took office the national debt stood at 5.7 trillion dollars. Today, after almost six years of George W. Bush and the Republican Congress, the national debt stands at 8.5 trillion dollars, That is an increase of almost 50%, over $28,000 for each of us. Four times during the presidency of George W. Bush Congress has had to raise the debt limit, and Congress(wo)man X has voted for it every time. At the same time (s)he voted over and over to eliminate the estate tax and reduce other taxes that the very wealthy pay.* Who do you think is going to have to pay back the ever-increasing national debt? Why don't you ask Congress(wo)man X? After all, (s)he voted for it.
The chief cause of the burgeoning national debt is the Bush tax cuts. Of course the Iraq War, now over $1 trillion, is also a cost, and support for the war could be included where appropriate. But without the tax cuts we would not be running an annual deficit that adds to the cumulative debt (which is the real problem). Moreover, the effect of the tax cuts is very uneven, and they overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. Coupling the increase in the debt with the Bush tax cuts helps blunt the tax issue for Dems. In fact, the Bush tax cuts are really only a tax deferral, and the difference will have to be made up one way or another.
Maybe it wouldn't work, since there is evidence voters support tax cuts even when theydon't think they will benefit. But the GOP is going to raise the tax issue against Dem challengers, and they had better be ready for it.
The debt limit was raised to $8.965 trillion in March of this year, and was also raised in 2002, in May, 2003 and November, 2004.
*The estate tax affects only one half of one percent (5 per 1,000) of people who die as of this year, and will drop even further in 2009. Dividends and capital gains go overwhelmingly (73%) to the top 3% of households, who have taxable incomes over $200,000, and 54% go to those with incomes over $1 million. Moreover, because of higher marginal tax rates, the 15% rate on investment income is worth much more to these taxpayers. And of course the reduction in the top brackets affects only those with taxable incomes over $185,000 per couple.